Weird Prince is not always great Prince…wait, let me walk that back.
Just about everything Prince put out (especially during his 1980-88 imperial period) qualifies as at least a little bit weird. Most of it is great, the worst of it is merely good. “Annie Christian”, sonically and lyrically, is great…not “Kiss” or “When Doves Cry” or “Adore” great. But second tier Prince great, which is still better than 90% of the music ever made. And weird. He talks instead of sings over video game synthesizers, rips off a distorted guitar solo, and basically sounds 180 degrees different than the dude who cooed “I Wanna Be Your Lover” two years before. We were very quickly being trained to expect the unexpected from Mister Nelson.
“Annie Christian” is an overt political statement, and Prince had yet to make one of those in his then-short career. In brief, rapid-fire bursts, he calls out the Atlanta Child Murders, John Lennon’s death, and ABSCAM, which this entry compelled me to look up on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abscam). He attributes all of these factual incidents to a fictional(?*) character he dubs Annie Christian (aka The Anti-Christ). I’m not sure if Prince was going for a news reporter vibe in his vocal delivery, but his deadpan cadence comes across as quite unsettling. It’s interesting to note that in 1981, some folks appear to have been just as freaked out about the U.S. political situation as we are now. “Nice to know that the gun control argument has gone nowhere in the last thirty-six years,” Prince is probably muttering somewhere in the afterlife.
*given Prince’s religious beliefs, I can’t be sure.
NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…
“Angel” by Simply Red (1996): Sure, just let Simply Red perform covers and have hip-hop producers sit behind the boards for them, and the result will usually be (almost) perfect. In this case, Mick Hucknall lends his hefty pipes to a Fugees-produced Aretha Franklin cover. This was maybe a dry run for Lauryn helming “A Rose Is Still A Rose”? I dunno. Her background vocals here are sublime, though. Either way, the two entities do the song justice, even though I could do without Wyclef’s unnecessary habit of inserting himself into every single song he works on.
“Angelia” by Richard Marx (1989): Don’t sleep on how big Richard Marx was in the late ’80s and early ’90s. “Angelia” was the third top 20 single (out of five!) from his sophomore album Repeat Offender. Although it didn’t hit #1 like its predecessors “Right Here Waiting” or “Satisfied”, it’s the better song. A muscular lite-rock arrangement, some of Richard’s toughest singing, and a killer chorus. This is adult contemporary perfection.